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In the wake of the paleobiological revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, paleontologists continue to investigate far-reaching questions about how evolution works. Many of those questions have a philosophical dimension. How is macroevolution related to evolutionary changes within populations? Is evolutionary history contingent? How much can we know about the causes of evolutionary trends? How do paleontologists read the patterns in the fossil record to learn about the underlying evolutionary processes? Derek Turner explores these and other questions, introducing the reader to exciting recent work in the philosophy of paleontology and to theoretical issues including punctuated equilibria and species selection. He also critically examines some of the major accomplishments and arguments of paleontologists of the last 40 years.
1. Paleontology and evolutionary theory
2. A new way of looking at the fossil record
3. Punctuated equilibria: provocations and problems
4. The emergence of a hierarchical evolutionary theory
5. The case for species selection
6. Real trends
7. The dynamics of evolutionary trends
8. Is evolution contingent?
9. Diversity and disparity
10. Are genes the new fossils?
Derek Turner is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College. His previous publications include Making Prehistory: Historical Science and the Scientific Realism Debate (Cambridge University Press, 2007), as well as a number of articles on the philosophy of paleontology.